Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- Harlan Tri-Cities
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
Tap into your creative side in the Arts and Crafts Capital of the World, located in Berea, Kentucky.
This city has been voted one of the most beautiful small towns in America and lives up to that charming name to this day.
Berea (“buh-RAY-uh”) is home to a liberal arts college and several artsy, eclectic districts where art isn’t just on display; it’s a way of life.
You can stroll and see the art or join in the crafting classes to make your own impression on Berea.
If there’s an art form, there’s a “LearnShop” for it here.
On top of that, a plethora of outdoor activities awaits just outside the city boundaries.
The Pinnacles stretch beyond Berea College Forestry Outreach Center with panoramic views and dynamic landscapes.
A little further and you’ll be in the middle of Daniel Boone National Forest, with 700,000 acres to explore.
The Red River Gorge can take you to vertigo-inducing heights or underground in water-filled caves.
You can zip line, climb, and kayak your way to an authentic Kentucky adventure.
At the end of the day, Berea has plenty of unique places to stay.
The Historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant is one of the top hotels in town and has been taking in guests for more than a century.
This elegant building comes complete with a wrap-around porch, which is a Southern staple.
If you’d rather “rough it,” plenty of campsites and cabins are available, and there’s every other kind of hotel and bed & breakfast in between those options.
Warnings & Dangers in Berea
OVERALL RISK: LOW
The city is pretty crafty with its crime numbers, too, keeping low-risk levels and high levels of activity. Every crime category is below state and national averages.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
There's a fixed-route bus system that only costs $1 a day, or you can buy 10 days for $7. The bus system has nearly two dozen stops in Berea. To get to the wilderness areas, you'll need a car. Taxis and rideshares are available but not as on-demand as in bigger cities. All options are low-risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The theft rate here is nearly 30% lower than the national average, and no pickpockets or purse snatchings were reported in 2020. 21% of thefts here are car break-ins, so you'll need to lock the doors and roll up windows when you park.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Berea has a medium risk because of all the threats possible year-round. Winter brings blizzards, snow storms, ice storms, and sleet. Spring kicks off tornado season, and severe thunderstorms are common. That risk goes into summer and fall, with a secondary tornado season in late fall.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery rate is almost 75% lower than the national average, and there is just a one in 3,885 risks of being a mugging victim. You can rest easy with a low risk here.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here but not because of anything in Berea. The nearby Blue Grass Army Depot is a storage facility for weapons, from traditional munitions to chemical warfare. With the risk comes a much higher level of security in this region. If you ever notice anything suspicious here, you can call the Kentucky terror watch hotline at 1-866-EYE-ON-KY (1-866-393-6659).
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The main scams reported here are phone scams from people pretending to be police officers or utility workers. There are no known tourist scams.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
While the violent crime rate is low, 75% of the violent crimes were against women. About half of those crimes happened in private residences. There's no reason to worry about these statistics, but it was worth pointing out. Four sexual assaults were reported. As with any city, you shouldn't walk around at night alone. Also, if you're going hiking or taking part in another outdoor activity, please let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report for Berea Utilities shows low risk, with no violations reported and all tests meeting the required standards.
Safest Places to Visit in Berea
Berea has different districts for shopping and dining.
While they aren’t all that big, they are distinct.
- Artisan Village: This is where Artist Circle is located, with shops and history mixed along Broadway. It’s a great place to start your adventure because the tourism office is in this part of town.
- College Square: Surrounded by the liberal arts school Berea College, you’ll find artists’ work created by students. There’s a visitor’s center here for college-related attractions.
- Chestnut Street: Here, you can peruse antiques or visit the Berea Arts Council. A working artist studio is here as well, housed in a historic building.
VisitBerea.com has a list of all the “LearnShops” available, and the list is extensive:
- Glass Blowing
- Woodworking & Baskets
- Succulent Design
- Pyrography (“Writing with Fire”)
**Note: The LearnShops aren’t ongoing, but you can check the website to see if any events are happening during your visit.
Just east of the college, you’ll find an open wilderness area with everything from hiking trails to waterfalls.
This area is open year-round, from dawn to dusk, and there are group tours every Saturday.
Check out the Forestry Outreach Center for updated star-gazing maps if you want to visit at night and see the heavens with very little light pollution.
The Daniel Boone National Forest is divided into five districts and several different areas.
Berea is closest to the London and Cumberland Districts.
While there are so many things to do in the forest, the highlight of the Cumberland District is the Red River Gorge.
It’s about a 90-minute drive from Berea.
There are cave tours, rock climbing, hiking, wildlife viewing, and even treehouses if you want to stay there overnight.
If you head west from Berea, you can visit the William Whitley House State Historic Site, where a home built in the late 1700s still stands.
It was the first brick home on this side of the Allegheny Mountains and was specifically designed to avoid attacks from Native Americans.
Nearby Cedar Creek Lake has some of the best bass fishing in the state.
Many lakes here say they have the best fish.
This one was rated by Field & Stream as one of the best in the country.
Places to Avoid in Berea
The central and northern sides of the city have the highest crime rates, but that’s not saying a lot since the crime rates are so low.
There isn’t a dangerous or bad part of town here.
When you are heading to Red River Gorge, you have to drive through a tunnel blasted into the side of the mountain.
The tunnel looks ominous as you approach, and you must avoid driving right through it.
That’s because there is just one lane and a narrow lane at that.
If you are driving a larger vehicle, use extra caution.
Always check to see if a car is coming from the other direction before you enter.
There is a visitor’s center at the Blue Grass Army Depot, but there aren’t formal tours scheduled.
If you have questions about whether you are allowed to visit the Depot, call (859) 779-6934.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Berea
- The Berea Police warn you upfront – they are relentlessly cracking down on driving violations like speeding, drunk driving, and aggressive driving. Stick to the posted speed limits, don’t drive distracted, and keep your seat belt on at all times while driving.
- The Berea city website doesn’t have an updated news section, but you can get the latest information on Facebook @bereakygov. Here you can learn about road closures, construction projects, water main breaks, and local events.
- Throughout the year you might smell fire or see smoke coming from the nearby woods. These are likely prescribed burns to prevent larger wildfires. This is perfectly normal. The city and fire department will post on social media when this is happening.
- If you are going to stargaze while you’re here, bring a flashlight with a red filter, so the light doesn’t distract other visitors. You’ll need to walk slowly and wear sturdy hiking boots because there are loose rocks and branches along the way. Look for “Star Parties” on the website or social media pages for the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center, so you have a larger group and a guide.
- A popular spot in the Red River Gorge area is the Sky Bridge. I have to type this sentence really fast because it’s making me dizzy. This is a rock arch above the gorge below. Use EXTRA caution on this bridge because there is no handrail, fence, or anything to keep you from falling off the edge. Keep children and pets very close.
- The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway is an incredible 46-mile stretch of roadway, but it’s a narrow, winding road. Avoid taking pictures while driving. There are plenty of places to pull over and take pictures from scenic vistas.
- If you want to fish while you’re in this area, you’ll need a license from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife. There are also special permits required to be able to hunt. Review all the rules and regulations on the website, and you can purchase your license there if you’d like.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through the Madison County, Kentucky, Emergency Management Agency. The alerts are through a program called Everbridge. This will keep you informed of developing weather or other emergencies. The EMA tells me the biggest hazard in the county is the weather.
- Please take this tip in the spirit of “planning for any emergency, no matter how unlikely.” With the Army Depot close by and the chemical weapons inside, plus the number of chemical businesses in Madison County, the city has a Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program in place. To be prepared or alleviate concerns, review the shelter-in-place plan should there be a chemical emergency. There’s a checklist and a map of the different districts that could be impacted.
- If you are visiting in the winter and a storm is approaching, stock up on water, blankets, and food that doesn’t require refrigeration. Ice commonly mixes with snow in this region, which can weigh down branches on trees, causing them to fall on power lines.
So... How Safe Is Berea Really?
Berea is a safe small town with low crime numbers compared to its population of 15,539, much less the number of people who visit or travel through here each year.
In the summer of 2022, there was a trend of fake crime posts circulating on social media.
The crimes posted are scary and outrageous.
If you don’t see the crime information coming from the Berea Police Department or Madison County Sheriff, don’t believe it.
Here’s how the risks break down in Berea:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 971 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 3,885 risk
- Theft: 1 in 100 risk
Half of the robberies reported happened in public places, but that’s to say just two robberies happened in public.
The silver lining is that the thieves only got away with $13.
The weather is the biggest safety concern here, and even if you are out in the wilderness, you need to have a weather radio with you to get urgent information.
You should check with your mobile provider to see where the service area is throughout this region.
How Does Berea Compare?
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You'll need a U.S. Visa to visit from outside the country. Part of this process requires an interview for most people at a U.S. Embassy in their home country. It can take a while to get an appointment, so book as early as possible. Once you get your visa, you'll only need it at the airport when arriving and departing. You can travel throughout Kentucky and the U.S. without having to show it at state borders.
Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted here, and you'll want to have some cash on you for merchants that don't take credit cards. Only bring the cash you need on a given day. Don't take all of it with you daily.
Berea gets all four seasons, so you'll need associated clothing. Winter will likely require outerwear, and bring several warm layers for mountain trips. You'll need good hiking boots too. Be sure to break them in before you go hiking to avoid blisters. Summers are hot and humid here. The humidity is what can really surprise you, so wear clothing that is comfortable even if you're sweating a lot. Bring bug spray and then another bottle of bug spray just to be safe. There are a LOT of bugs here when it's warm outside.
Lexington's Blue Grass Airport is about an hour north. Louisville International Airport is about 90 minutes away. If you are flying out of Knoxville, Tennessee, plan for a two-hour drive.
Travel insurance is going to be helpful with the amount of driving and wilderness risks in this region. The weather here can also cause flight delays or cancellations.
Berea Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Kentucky - Safety by City